Much is being made of the New York Yankees needing help to bolster their starting rotation. And it’s all merited. Our starting rotation, as it stands, going into 2020 is Masahiro Tanka (coming off of one of his worst regular seasons in professional American baseball), James Paxton, Luis Severino (after missing all but a handful of starts in September and a few playoff starts), JA Happ (after an absolutely dreadful season), and Jordan Montgomery (who has pitched a combined 31.1 innings since 2018). This is a rotation that needs help. We can’t ride our bullpen like we’ve been doing the last few years, because they’ll get exhausted by October, and we’ll have another year of missing the World Series. To put it in perspective, Chapman, Green, Ottavino, Britton, and Kahnle threw for 312 innings combined in 2019. Tanaka and Paxton threw for 332.2 innings combined.
Our offense needs to improve as well. We were one of the most feared lineups in baseball in 2019. But we struck out over 1,400 times in the regular season and striking out over 90 times throughout the postseason. Strikeouts are a liability that plague every team, and if we didn’t strike out as much as we did against Houston, it would have been us playing Washington in the World Series.
Our Murderers Row is Our Greatest Strength AND Weakness
Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Luke Voit, these are guys with power that can take you deep in an instant. But good lord are they strikeout prone. Using Stanton’s strikeout totals from 2018 (the dude did miss practically all of 2019 after all) and add it up to the other 4’s strikeout totals from this year, you have 748 strikeouts throughout a given season. Edwin Encarnacion, who struck out 103 times during the regular season, struck out an appalling 13 times in October. The strikeouts have to come down, across the board if we want meaningful games played deep into October.
Why You Have to Include Andujar and Urshela in the 2020 Lineup
Gio Urshela has a lot to prove in 2020, namely that 2019 wasn’t a fluke year offensively. He also needs to show he can bounce back from playing a full season as, up till last year, he was a career backup third baseman/bench player. But he struck out 87 times last year, which was 3 fewer times than our offensive stalwart DJ LeMahieu.
Miguel Andujar has quite a bit riding on him too. It’s not easy coming back from surgically repairing a torn labrum after having a breakout first season performance as he did. The last Yankee in recent memory who did this was Greg Bird (remember his 2015 and how he never was the same again?). But there is far less riding on his shoulders as the main two things he has to prove are 1) That he’s healthy, and 2) That his defense improved since 2018.
I’ve used the comparison metric for these two men of “the first full season they played”, but I’ll expand to their full careers. Andujar has struck out 108 times in his career (97 times in 2018), with a career .318 OBP and a .819 OPS. Â Gio Urshela has struck out 177 times in his career, with a career .313 OBP and a .735 (.889 in 2019) OPS. Gleyber Torres has a .338/.849 OBP/OPS, but has struck out over 200 times in his career. Aaron Judge is .394/.952 but has struck out over 500 times in his 4-year career.
This shows that Urshela and Andujar are capable of getting on base, SLUGGING their ways on base (on par with what Gleyber Torres can do) but are far less likely to strikeout in the key at-bat of the game. Torres and Judge are more adept at getting on base and slugging their ways on, but we’ve seen how strikeout happy they are.
The answer is clear. Both guys have to be in the lineup if you want to offset the K machine that is the New York Yankees Murderer’s Row. Otherwise, you’re in for another disappointing finish to a great season.